Straight Outta Summer #2

Straight OuttaI said I would write about identity. I had words to share. And God used them differently than I thought. I had the opportunity to share those words with the Christian community on William & Mary’s campus at Intervarsity. I shared about my struggle with identity and what God has been doing in my life over last semester and the summer. He’s taught me things about who I am and where my worth lies. He’s been speaking truth into my life through the words of authors, artists, and friends. I had words planned out for this “part 2.” Yet as I’ve gotten caught up in the busyness of school, those words have become just typed key phrases and scribbled notes on a never ending to do list.

I’m not going to write those words. Maybe later they’ll come back in the form of a well-organized blog post. Not now.

So, identity. I am a child of God.

Fear not. For I have redeemed you. I have called you by name. You are mine.”

~ Isaiah 43:1

Tonight I stood in a huge auditorium that felt like a homey living room and worshipped with hundreds of Christians that felt like family. And I saw my identity declared over and over again.

Forgiven. Redeemed. Blameless. No longer a slave. Free. Loved. Embraced. Child of God.

And words came to me. Words that expressed where I go from here—with the knowledge that I am known by name to a redeemer and savior and creator. So I’ll share those instead.

I want to wake up every morning and clothe myself in love. Choosing to love those who can offer me nothing or who might reject me. Choosing to care about people who may only be passing through my life and may leave me with a broken heart. I will clothe myself in love that people may know that they are special and worthy and enough. I will clothe myself in peace knowing that my God is for me. He has overcome. My future is secure. I have someone fighting for me and by my side. I am not alone. I will claim peace over my life that I may be a safe presence and a genuine soul. I will clothe myself in grace knowing that I am desperately in need of it but have also been given an abundance. I will choose to see humanity all around me—the people who pass me as God’s fingerprints and His workmanship—worthy, claimed, and deserving of respect. I will clothe myself in strength knowing that my foundation is solid. I will not be shaken. I will take risks. I will choose to trust instead of fear. I will persevere.

I will place “Jesus” as a banner over my soul. Because more than anything, when people look at me, I want them to see my Jesus.

Because if I am a child of the most high God, then why should I fear? Why should I worry about my future job opportunities or that exam tomorrow morning? Why should I be afraid of being uncomfortable or outside the lines? Why should I doubt my worth? And why should I doubt others’ value?

Because if the Gospel is real, then when will I stop caring about classes and grades, and start caring about the people sitting next to me in class or the people I pass in the hallway?

If the Gospel is real and I am a child of God, then I will hang everything on the line. Because the structures and systems that I am apart of don’t matter in the long haul. Only this relationship matters. Only the people around me matter. So I will risk it. I will give everything. I will love recklessly and unconditionally. I will wonder at the world around me. I will extend grace. I will trust deeply. And I will embrace the rough spots and the loneliness and the darkness knowing that my God meets me there. He pursued me. And He loves me. He extends grace. He provides safety. He risked it for me.

And He is leading me from glory to glory.

So I will wake

And spend my days

Loving the One who has raised me up

From death to life

From wrong to right

You’re making all things beautiful”

~ “Mercy,” Amanda Cook

This is my declaration of my identity. Phebe.

Straight Outta Summer #1

Straight OuttaAll summer I have been wrapped up in the pursuit of an answer. What will God teach me? What is God teaching me? What has God taught me? I’m mulling over that third one a lot now, as the end of summer draws near (*sob*). All these experiences & emotions & people & places—where do they fit in my story, in God’s story?

A few nights ago, my mom and I were in the kitchen, after a long political conversation around the supper table. A lot of processing at that meal. Then more processing in the kitchen. Always processing. I was talking about politics and me and where I fit in. And in the middle of some well-thought-out point, it hit me. The summer came together in a giant firework display over my head.

IDENTITY.

If there’s one thing God has been teaching me this summer it is the lesson of identity. My identity lies in Him. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I thought I learned this in high school. I went over to West Africa to teach this lesson to children. But I guess I needed to be reminded of it again.

Because as I’ve been analyzing my summer from the perspective of non-intern me, the common thread running through my summer is plucked out. And it is illuminated in 3 areas. Ready for honest talk with Phebe again? Here we go.

My political views do not define me.

For as long as I can remember, I have been bold in my political opinions. I remember being a 3rd grader and discussing Bush’s re-election campaign with my Sunday school teacher, who wasn’t convinced of his ability. I certainly was. For whatever reason… I can’t even remember now. I wore my “Viva Bush” shirt with pride and counted campaign signs on the way to school. Yep, I was that kid. In high school, I volunteered for political campaigns, handed out ballets on election day, and watched the presidential debates. Most of my friends could care less. But I if they were willing, I was always up for a political discussion.

Then I reach college. I immediately run for secretary of the College Republicans. I go to CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) in the spring. Without getting into too much detail, that weekend changed my perspective. Here I was, surrounded by the top conservative minds in the country, and I didn’t feel the thrill and pull that I thought I would. Everything felt so shallow and superficial. I came away from that weekend realizing one thing: I love America but I love Jesus a whole lot more.

I had defined myself. I wasn’t just conservative in my politics. I was a right-wing conservative.

Through conversations at college and over this summer, my views have started shifting. I’m realizing that I’m not always “right” (in both senses of that word) and that is okay. At first I was terrified. Without my right-wing views, who was I? If I didn’t want to have a career in politics, then where did my future lie? Most importantly, was I letting people down?

I still love politics: the debates, the discussions, the documentaries. The difference is that I’m still figuring out what I believe and I’m not placing my identity in my political beliefs. I don’t think Jesus would have been a “capitalist” or a “socialist;” He wouldn’t have been a “republican” or a “democrat.” He wasn’t apolitical. But He wasn’t defined by the world’s political stigmas or labels.

Here’s the conclusion I’ve come to: I don’t want people to remember my political beliefs; I want people to remember my Jesus.

My body does not define me.

This has been a weird summer for me and my body. I have felt beautiful. (*Gasp* Can I admit that in a public space?) But the flaws that I see in myself have also been accentuated. I’ve been insecure about my height, my spider veins, and my nose. My siblings have been laying on the height jokes hard this summer. Oh, and my brother is now 4 inches taller than me, and one of my sisters is almost as tall as me. So that’s great too. But I’m done with the body slamming, because it’s miserable to feel miserable (I have a way with words, I know). So I’m taking back my body and owning it.

I love my spider veins. The way they add color to white, white legs. The way they make me just a bit closer to being Spider Man. The way they are hereditary—inherited from two strong, beautiful women, whose genetics I am honored to carry with me. The way a friend commented that one set looks like a smiley face—and I’ll rejoice that I carry positivity marked on my body.

I love my height: my 5-foot, 3-(and a half) inch frame that enables me to climb through playground obstacles after my sisters with relative ease. That means I have to climb on the counter to reach my tea, which is a lot of fun when the parents aren’t looking. That allows me to fit my whole body in a reading chair and under a blanket. That keeps me humble and reminds me to laugh at myself.

I love my nose, the nose that is a perfect blend of my mother’s and my father’s noses, and matches the sister who reminds me of myself. The nose that stands straight out on my face, that defines my profile, that is my one sharp facial feature, that represents elegance and strong will in one.

No, my body does not define me. I think of how we label people by the way they look. I’ve heard friends do it this summer. I’ve been labeled. How thankful I am that the way people perceive me does not dictate my identity. But I throw this out there: when will we choose to stop looking at the body and start looking at the person?

My summer internship does not define me.

I went from attending a gala with state dignitaries and attending cocktail receptions to standing in front of the scanner for hours. I’ve been frustrated by the lack of eternal impact this summer has seemed to have. It’s been fun, relaxing, adventurous, exciting, restful, also busy. But then I have friends who are serving in Cambodia, or Uganda, or China. And I’m here, in Washington DC, hanging out with fascinating minds, eating good food, and spending my days in air conditioning looking at 20th century musical scripts. Sometimes I feel like the lesser Christian.

Yet a mentor reminded me that God’s perspective is much larger and wilder than mine. The things that He is doing I may not see now, or ever, but He is always working. He does not stop. The things that I can’t see are the things that are eternal.

And observing people on the Metro and interacting with academics have reminded me—Jesus is needed everywhere. Wherever He opens up opportunities and places me for a time, that’s where He wants me. All I have to do is follow.

Stay tuned for #2, where I discuss where my identity lies and who I actually am! Coming to you straight outta summer and (hopefully) in a few days.

Unsure of Much & Sure of One

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I am pitiful. After what felt like a few weeks of inactivity, I finally logged on to find out that I haven’t written in 53 days. 53 days?!?! What have I been doing with my life?

I wish I could advertise that I’ve been working on a book that is set to come out next year (titled “Content & Satisfied to the Max”). But the truth is that I’ve been largely uninspired and unmotivated, and I’ve realized that as much as I write about the topics, I have still NOT learned to be content or satisfied.

But I’m writing. Because I need to. Because I’m bored. Because plans got cancelled and I’m lonely. Because you (whoever “you” might be) deserve to hear from me since you decided to follow my shameful blog.

What have I been doing with my life? I’ve been learning and realizing there’s so much I don’t know. I’ve been wrestling and realizing how far I am from the condition I want to be.

For a good month after I came back from school I needed to rest. I needed to separate myself from people. I needed to simply breathe. And I did. I spent two weeks catching up with a select amount of friends, sleeping in too late, and trying to de-stress in the competition fueled place I call Nova. Then the real recovery happened. I spent the next two weeks, surrounded by the people who love me unconditionally, breathing in salt air and washing off anxiety in the ocean. I felt alive.

The cure for anything is salt water: sweat, tears or the sea.” – Isac Dinesen

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Now I am back to the grind. My internship is a crazy incredible opportunity to work among bright minds in the nation’s capital. I am stimulated, challenged, and rewarded. The first week I was completely in awe, asking myself almost every day “Is this real life?” Now the daily commute, quiet lunches, and long hours feel like a job (a wonderful job, nonetheless). I’m grateful. Yet I’m also searching for a new place of contentment. Through the past 3 two-week cycles of processing, I’ve been learning a lot. I’ve felt pulled back and forth in the cycles of transition, adjustment, and continued self-discovery. My life since finals has been a series of tensions.

I’m learning that…

I desire to let go, but I hold on tight.

I tell myself that I won’t miss certain people, but I really miss those people.

I feel like I need a break from constant community, yet I crave and need fellowship.

I have mastered the “I’m tired and grumpy; don’t talk to me” look on the Metro, while cringing at the hopelessness I witness in the faces around me.

I have a hard time trusting people, but I tend to (or want to) believe the best about people.

My dad is my hero for working long hours in the office every day and still having energy to share with his family, and meanwhile I barely have the energy to be nice to people.

The more I discover that I enjoy, the less I know what I want out of life.

My burning desire to be independent and make my own decisions is crippled by not knowing what I actually want and desiring opinions around me.

There are glimpses of hope in the world, but often I am simply an observer with no one to share those observations with.

I find joy in helping people, then I go and lose my patience at my perceived incompetence of those around me.

I am drawn to grace yet desperately in need of it.

I am stimulated by intellectual discussions, but lose energy at their inconclusiveness.

I crave time to breathe and think, yet I get bored and unmotivated in the quiet moments.

I claim to be strong, opinionated, and confident, yet I don’t know how to express myself and am rarely satisfied.

In the good moments it is easy to ignore God, and in the hard moments it is challenging to feel close to Him.

If I were to narrow down what I’ve learned since I’ve gotten home, it would be this: I am not certain of anything in this world anymore; the only thing I am sure of is Jesus. 

Over the weekend I read a thoughtful article about the trap of cookie-cutter Christianity and legalistic Christians. (You can read the full article here.) The last few sentences of the article struck me with their resounding truth, and I want to share them with you. These words have met me in my place of transition and self-discovery where I sit face-to-face with my own limitations.

If God’s scandalous relationship with the 12 thugs means anything, then we should expect a variegated spectrum of righteousness and be patient—or repentant—when such sanctification doesn’t meet out expectations. God meets us in our mess and pushes holiness out the other side. Not anti-mixed-bathing holiness. But the real stuff.

The holiness that serves the poor, prays without ceasing, redeems the arts, loves enemies, elevates community above corporate success, and preaches the life-giving Gospel of a crucified and risen Lamb in season and out.

I’m learning to let go of the expectations I have set for others and for myself. At the same time, I am striving for the mission that is laid out through real holiness. And so this blog post is far from publishing quality, but this is me…… the end of the day, exhausted, irritated, confused, struggling, searching, hopeful me….. in my own stage along the variegated spectrum of righteousness.

— Phebe

11 Things: Closing (and starting) Freshman Year

I’ve been home for three days. Over the past few weeks, as freshman year has drawn to close, I started thinking about what I’ve learned this year. (Check out my first semester list here.) If a new freshman were to ask me what they should know, what would I tell him or her?

Without further ado, here are 11 things I learned and they (you) should know!

  1. You will miss home more than you think.

I’ll start honestly, right off the bat. I learned too late in the year that it’s all right to mourn being away from home. The first month or so (at least for me), I got swept up in the novelty of college life and didn’t take time to realize how life was changing. And so, when it finally hit me, it hit me hard. I was ashamed of how I felt, because everyone around me seemed relatively fine and excited about being away from home. And all I wanted was to be back with my family. Everything around you is changing, life is not normal, and you are going to miss home. I struggled with homesickness for a large portion of my second semester. You somehow have to process the change that you are going through. What I know now, and what I wish someone would have told me, is that missing your family is not a sign of weakness, but it’s a sign that you have something beautiful. Being an adult is hard, but we all learn, we all go through it, and (most of us) come out just fine.

  1. Go to office hours.

The classes that I enjoyed the most were the ones where I had a good relationship with my professor. Go to office hours and find out who your TA is (if you have one). Usually they will be intelligent, interesting, and helpful. Personal example: During the last review session, I found out that my Macroeconomics TA was super friendly and helpful. She looked at Macro from a Micro perspective because she preferred Micro (as do I), and taking the time to attend her sessions earlier may have saved me from suffering. Moral of the story: go to office hours early. You don’t have to go back if they turn out to be unhelpful or rude, but most of the time your professors and TAs will be good allies, and it’s great to have a professor/upperclassman know your name.

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  1. Give people grace. We’re all trying to figure out how to do life.

Somebody borrows a cooking pot and leaves it dirty in the kitchen? Won’t ruin your day. Hall mates decide to throw a party when you are sick in bed and want to sleep? You will survive. When a friend seems to be ignoring you or not communicating, there is often more to the story. Everyone at college is trying to figure out how to balance homework, family issues, social events, club commitments, etc. You will be a lot happier if you just treat everyone with respect and love upfront.

  1. You do you. (Don’t play the comparison game.)

One of the most unnerving things is looking around and thinking everybody else has it all together. Let me tell you a secret: they don’t… and they probably feel like you do. We compare our behind the scenes to everyone else’s highlight reel. It’s a sad fact of human nature and a social-media obsessed world. As we say on Brown Hall 2nd floor, you do you. You are unique. You are beautiful. You are talented. At college (and especially at a school like William & Mary), you are one in a pool of very impressive people. And you too have something to offer! Keep doing what you love. Keep up with the study habits that work for you. Try new things. But don’t feel the need to be anyone else… but you!

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  1. Give yourself room to change.

At the same time, give yourself room to find out who you really are. What makes you happy? What do you want to achieve? Who do you want to be? College is a chance to recreate yourself. And it’s one of the last opportunities you have to freely and honestly explore your identity. Don’t try to be the same person you were in high school. Some things are going to change by circumstance (I’ve become more socially outgoing), but others you get to decide (I’ve become more passionate about environmental issues). Figure out what you like about yourself and what you would like to do differently. And then, go do!

  1. Write down your first impressions.

This is definitely something I wish I had done! Take the time to write down what you think of your roommate, the person across the hall, your RA, your bathroom, and the dining hall. You will thank me later. You’ll want to remember what you first thought as a baby freshman. And first impressions make for pretty great conversation later on…IMG_4717 - Version 2

  1. Invest in people who make your life more wonderful. And let the others go.

This applies to both high school friends and college ones. You get to choose who you keep in touch with from high school. College is a busy, go-go-go time and the truth is that you will have limited time to spend with people. So choose wisely. Invest in people who challenge you, inspire you, and make you laugh. Invest in people who will encourage you. But also invest in the people who you can be there for and who you can minister Jesus’s love to. Choose an inner circle of friends and confidants. As far as the rest… be polite, smile, say hello, ask how they are doing, but let them go.

  1. IMG_4810Your morning devotion time may be the only moment of peace you get.

College is all about running the race well. As I said above, life is busy. Some days you won’t even have a chance to slow down. So intentionally use your morning devotion time. Most mornings you will be tempted to read quickly and move on to your impending homework (or you will be tempted to hit snooze 10 times). Yet that quiet half hour, or however long, may be the only time you have to center your thoughts and breathe. So take advantage of it. You will never regret spending some extra God-time. And He will reward the time you take for Him.

  1. Leave your door open.

One of my most favorite things in the world is a spontaneous conversation that goes deep real fast. This won’t happen if you seclude yourself from the world in your tiny dorm room. Yes, homework is important, but so are people. You will miss out on the spontaneous: the laughter, jokes, dance parties, political debates, religious discussions, and opportunities to help. Keep that door open and the best will happen. (And do your serious studying outside the dorm.) This is how you build those lasting friendships…. and find quality tweets…

  1. Being in over your head is a good place to be.

A summary of this semester would be “in over my head.” I knew at the beginning of the year that this would be a semester to persist. Taking 17 credits of difficult classes was a lot. Add cold weather, dark days, sickness, busy weekends, homesickness, a packed schedule, and competitive academics. I was overwhelmed and exhausted by the first few weeks. But I learned to humble myself, allow people to support me, and rely on God for my strength. Being in over your head is a beautiful place to be, because when you can’t do it on your own, God’s glory is demonstrated more fully in your life. You will have more than you can bear sometimes, but Jesus holds you and strengthens you the whole way.

  1. This year will (most likely) be the hardest and best year of your life so hard.

If someone were to ask me how my freshman year was, that’s how I would simply describe it. This year was the hardest. I made mistakes, I was lonely and homesick, I experienced frequent illness, I had to learn how to be independent, I had to deal with tragedy away from my family, I was mentally exhausted, I was pushed academically, etc, etc. Yet it was also the best. I made wonderful friends, I tried new things, I achieved many small (and big) victories, I went on adventures, I was independent, I grew spiritually, and I fell in love with a college and a town. I realized this year just how hard life is and how messed up our world is. Yet through it, I also learned more about myself and became happier in who I am.

That’s freshman year in 11 sentences (well, quite a bit more than that). For all you who are about to graduate high school and head into this grand new adventure, that’s what I wished someone would have told me. Now you know. Go and do college grandly!

— Phebe

  

Bravery, On the Regular

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I’ve been thinking a lot recently about what it means to be “brave.” In many of the worship songs I’ve been hearing and singing recently, there are three common themes: bravery and trust and the ocean.

Spirit lead me where my trust is without borders

Let me walk upon the waters

Wherever You would call me

Take me deeper than my feet could ever wander

And my faith will be made stronger

In the presence of my Savior”

*Oceans, Hillsong

You make me brave

You make me brave

You call me out upon the shore into the waves

You make me brave

You make me brave

No fear can hinder now the promises you’ve made”

*You Make Me Brave, Bethel Music

You split the sea so I could walk right through it

You drowned my fears in perfect love

You rescued me so I could stand and sing

I am a child of God”

*No Longer Slaves, Bethel Music

Some of you may remember that I wrote a lot about “Oceans” right before I went to Liberia. That became my theme song for missions. I’ve always thought about bravery and trust and going deep and being overwhelmed as things for the mission field. The highest Christian calling is long-term foreign missions, right?

Yet I resonate so much with these songs. I love singing about bravery. Trust is something I’m asking for more of. Going deep is what I crave. Being overwhelmed is a daily feeling.

But I am in college. My biggest worry right now is getting through finals. My toughest health struggle is sleep deprivation. I am relatively comfortable. I have friends. There are plenty of moments of laughter. And I know that in just a week, I will be home. Then why does life still seem hard? And why do I still relate so much to the themes of bravery and trust?

A few nights ago, as I was lying in bed (where most of my deep thinking happens), I realized something. Living life takes courage.

My roommate is one of the bravest people I know. She’s going to school in a different country, away from her family, her boyfriend, and her close friends. She’s taking on Calculus II and all sorts of complex science classes (that I am terrified of) because she has dreams of being a neuroscientist. She keeps trusting even though her family is moving farther away and her friends will be spread out across the world.

The parents I know who are watching their young son battle cancer are brave. They’re pursuing treatment without any proof of results. They’re trusting God for the funds, and opening up their lives to hundreds of churchgoers and distant friends. They’re trying to provide a normal life for their children in the midst of chaos.

A young couple in my Chi Alpha Bible study is brave. Not knowing where the money will come from next year, she continues to sign up for classes and focus on her pre-med degree. He works a job that he’s not passionate about in order to support his wife and make ends meet.

I’m realizing that maybe bravery isn’t just reserved for the mission field.

Maybe bravery and trust is a common theme because that’s exactly what we need.

Maybe being courageous is another every day choice.


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Courage is leaving a wonderful home and loving family to start a new life on my own.

Courage is going to a school where I’m not the smartest and am challenged every day.

Courage is asking God for the big miracles that seem impossible in the lives of my friends.

Courage is approaching God’s throne for the little things and the every day routine.

Hebrews 4:16 — “Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

Courage is pressing forward in the wake of suicide.

Courage is choosing to see people as more than statistics.

Courage is loving people even when I know they are going to leave my life soon.

Courage is trusting God to multiply the time I spent opening up my room to friends, instead of doing my history reading.

Courage is sharing my pain with friends when all I want to do is roll into a ball.

Courage is seeking out support when my family isn’t there to hold me.

Psalms 27:14 — “Wait for the LORD; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the LORD.”

Courage is being an open Christian on a secular campus.

Courage is studying hard for finals.

Courage is also choosing not to stress and allowing my mind and body to rest.

(And maybe courage is taking a break from studying to write a blog post that God laid on my heart.)

Psalm 62:5 — “Yes, my soul, find rest in God: my hope comes from him.”

Don’t belittle your life and the calling you are living out. Don’t belittle the daily struggles and the small victories. There’s a reason why our worship leaders are singing about bravery, trust, going deeper, and being overwhelmed — Living life takes a good dose of bravery, on the regular.

Tripping Through Life*

I’ve recently been receiving comments on social media… “W&M cover girls!!” “You guys are the cutest.” “You’re cool.” “Ahhh why are you so perfect?” “You are perfection my dear!”

And from looking on my Instagram or my Facebook, those comments are pretty convincing. My life looks great. I am surrounded by friends. I’m going on cool adventures. My fashion is on point. For example…

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That’s not me. Yeah, that’s me on my good days. I live a pretty great life. I’m having some incredible moments and doing some super cool things. I have wonderful friends, and I am living in a beautiful place. But that’s only part of the picture. I’m here to set the record straight.

You don’t see me when I am hunched over my laptop, furiously writing a paper I procrastinated too long on.

You don’t see me when I am sprint-walking across campus to reach a class just barely on time, because I was finishing a last-minute assignment or slept too late.

Or when I miss an event to help with a local elementary school’s field day.

Or when I am running into the cafeteria 15 minutes before a class.

Or when I am so exhausted that I can’t think straight.

Or when I am so overwhelmed that I want to cry.

Or when I hate the world so much that I want to curl up into a ball and never talk to anyone ever again.

Or when I am so homesick that I think my heart might just shatter.

Or when I am in the middle of a panic attack, taking deep breaths.

Or when I am so stressed that I withdraw into a grey study room for hours.

Or when I am ranting on the phone to my mom.

Or when I’m such a mess that I can’t think straight or talk English.

Or when I trip up the steps… oh wait, there were no steps. I tripped over my own feet.

Yep, that’s me. Now don’t get me wrong, that is not my always. But it is my regular. I’m struggling my way through this life. Relying on Jesus every step (or trip) of the way. Still think I’m cool or perfect?

But my hope is that I would bring glory to God with each stumble. My hope is that I would find joy through the trials. Because, oh, the trials never end, dear friend. Not in this life. I only hope to set an example through my perseverance (not my fashion, hair, food choices, or adventures).

Consider it a great joy, my brothers, whenever you experience various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. But endurance must do its complete work, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking nothing. Now if any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives to all generously and without criticizing, and it will be given to him. (James 1:2-5)

When endurance does its complete work, we will lack nothing. And when we lack nothing, we will no longer need to ask God for anything. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think I’m ever going to get to that point. Not until heaven, at least. So here’s the truth: the trials just keep coming. The messy moments keep happening. Our completion is not in this world.

But we are not alone. When we are so exhausted and stressed that we can’t function, we can approach the throne of God with full assurance that He will answer. He is FOR you.

We process joy in emotions–peace, contentment, satisfaction… But joy is a daily choice to trust. My prayer for you and for myself is that we would learn to embrace the trials and find joy in them, knowing that one day we will reach completion. The struggle is not in vain!

— This has been honest talk with Phebe. Tune in next time to hear me talk more about my messed up life and God’s saving grace!

*I’m talking about actual tripping, not drugs. Get your mind out of the gutter.

Spring Break Review

… because I couldn’t come up with a title more unique than that. (Give me a break, I’ve been on a break!)

This week was exactly what I needed. Originally I was going to be doing an Instagram campaign for an ethical fashion brand, Sseko (www.ssekodesigns.com), as one of their Spring Break advocates. However, my shoes didn’t come in time, so my social media advocacy will have to wait until later in the month. (But stay tuned for a post about Sseko and why I support them!) Although I was initially disappointed, because I had plans for photo shoots, adventures, etc., God knew what I needed. The week was instead spent at home, seeing only a few close friends, and having quality time with my sisters and mother.

My week was filled with delicious, healthy, organic food (which brings me much joy after a college student, cafeteria food diet), princess movies, manicures and pedicures, tea parties, and shopping trips. And nothing beats being at home, where one can curl up on the couch with a cup of tea and talk to a loving, wise mother in person.

A few more snapshots from my week…

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A “Chocolate Library” found in the mall — two of my favorite things in life collide

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the newness of Spring calls for change

A pile of Barbies on the floor is a sign that I’m home, that imagination exists, and that childhood is a good mess.

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Through the honesty of a friend, I’ve also been convicted about my current addiction to social media. So I’ve given it up just for the weekend, and will be limiting my use of any social media, except that which pertains to my Sseko advocacy for the next few weeks. I am hoping that a break from this constant bombardment of information will give me a chance for more productivity in classwork, more opportunities to read substantial articles, and more time with God.

Speaking of articles, here are a few gems I’ve found during the week.

Coast to Coast: Insta Honest In a generation of social media, where it’s easy to display only the best side of ourselves, how can we use this media to reach out to others? How can we be genuine?

Hosanna: Reclaiming a Fatherless Generation A beautifully written article on the image of God as our Father and the redemption of His love. (Also, check out the rest of Hosanna’s blog–she does spoken word and creativity workshops!)

Alison Marie Smith: When Home Isn’t Home During a time when I’m feeling especially reluctant to go back to college (and also worrying that I’ll never be able to fully live on my own), it’s good to be reminded that I’m not alone in my loneliness.

A prayer that I want to begin praying over the last two months of my first year at college (also from Alison Marie Smith):

Jesus, we long for you to meet us in our mess- to sit with us, to mourn with us, to pick up the pieces and put us back together again. As we wade through the mess of our lives and the mess of our world, help us to know that you are in the middle of it with us. Help us to find joy in the fact that you came and entered into our chaos and that you will come again to make all things new and whole. Amen. 

Here’s to the breaks – may they remind us of how good it feels to rest and be loved. And here’s to the chaos – may we remember that Christ is ever-present in our messiness.

– – Phebe

take more than a moment to Breathe

Yesterday. Headed south to the Chesapeake beach. But ended up driving north toward New York. Decided to stop at a small, quaint bayside town called Havre de Grace (last exit before the next toll). Spent the afternoon talking, strolling, browsing, sipping, capturing, and exploring. Ended the evening with a brilliant orange sunset and grey paint-dripped walls.

I’m trying to let my soul breathe this week. More than anything, I simply need to suck in the fresh air and be refreshed. For the past month, I have felt like I am constantly racing the clock and always falling further behind. I am out of breath. For the past two weeks, I have felt like I am drowning in an ocean of assignments, readings, and to-do lists. I am gasping for air.

And so, this week I allow myself to breathe. Assignments can wait. Responsibilities can be set aside. God is already speaking His truth to me in the depths of my soul: “Did you trust me? I had you all along…” He is shaking His head at me in amusement: “You think this is funny? It was My plan the whole time.” 

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One of the things I’m doing to let my soul breathe is to take time to read what I actually want to read. Here are a few of my favorite blogs/articles that have been filling my soul with encouragement, beauty, and wisdom.

Cause for Joy: “To a Wanderlust Heart…” This article speaks to a place where many of my friends and I are — a place of longing for adventure and travel.  (It is even so relevant to the adventure I went on yesterday with a friend.) Marli’s words are refreshing to the soul and speak truth to the core.

The Restored Artist: “Lent” My dear friend, Ellie, has written beautiful words on the purpose of Lent and the hope of salvation.

This Momentary Anthology  A friend from school is writing a series of poetry for a month. Her month is filled with short, powerful stanzas about life that touch me deeply.

Chatting at the Sky: “Learning to Walk Without an Agenda” A lesson I need to learn so badly. I’m trying to remember to use my many walks between classes to breathe, recharge, and process. Emily P. Freeman is one of my favorite authors, and her blog always causes me to stop, think, and smile.

Anything you’ve been reading recently? Any suggestions for blogs to check out? Please comment below! I’ll do another wrap-up of what I discover at the end of the week.

For now, take more than a moment…take a long time…to Breathe.

– – Phebe

Where is God in the Homesickness?

Homesickness.

Longing for a place of comfort with people who know you.

During my first month at college, I was immediately swept in a wave of action. I was easily adjusting to new class schedules, interesting classmates, engaging professors, and independent life. But then one morning, I had the random thought that I would never wake up to spontaneously go shopping at sporting goods stores with my dad and my brother. And just like that, a longing for the familiar overwhelmed me and I spent the next hour crying and journaling. But other than that one instance, I didn’t feel homesick during my first semester. I was loving the newness and excitement of college.

Then I went home for Christmas break. I ignored the fact that I had to return and waited until the very last moment to pack. After a glorious month at home, I walked upstairs to my dorm room, opened the door, and was awash in loneliness. My hall mates were all so excited to be back, and all I could think about was how much I wanted to go home. I sat outside to read and journal, yet every time a family passed me I was in tears again. When my roommate finally came back, we both ended up sitting on the floor, crying and sharing memories from break. The next mornings as I woke up, loneliness overwhelmed me. I questioned a lot. How was last semester so amazing? Why was everyone else so happy? How could I ever be an independent adult like this?

As the weeks continued, I began getting connected again. I remembered why I love my college. My schedule filled with classes, homework, lunch dates, and activities. Yet despite all the happy moments, when my roommate and I look at each other, we know—there’s a longing for the familiar place where we felt loved and accepted.

So how do we handle the homesickness? How do we learn to be content when we are lonely? Where is God in the homesickness? As I’ve processed and learned to cope, here are a few of the things that God has revealed to me.

Give yourself time to mourn. For so long I tried to ignore the feelings until I simply could not anymore. It is okay to cry. Tell yourself that. Crying is not a sign of weakness. Grief is not a sign of weakness. They are signs of humanity. Perhaps not as drastic, but you are walking in the shoes of the Israelites. Change is hard. Acknowledge that. You will grow and overcome as you accept that you miss home.

 By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion… How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?” (Psalm 137:1, 4).

Dwell in God’s presence. As I’ve processed my feelings of homesickness, I’ve realized that the only reason I feel lonely now is because I know what it feels like to be unconditionally loved and fully accepted at home. I have talked to many a friend whose break was filled with tension, quiet, and being alone. I have so many reasons to be grateful. And even when I feel lonely, I am never alone. God knows me deeply and loves me unconditionally.

The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged,” (Deuteronomy 31:8).

Focus on your relationship with God—pray, worship, read. In my season of loneliness, these things fill me up when I am empty.

Find ways to stay connected at home. Even though I am away at school, I want to stay invested in my family. We have weekly Skype sessions that are an intentional time to share life together. It’s almost like having a family supper! Something new that I have just started is memorizing Scriptures with my family. Dwelling on the same Scripture is a way to stay on the same page even when we are apart. Find a way to connect regularly with home and then be purposeful.

Make the most of your time, right where you are. I have the temptation to wish the time away until I see my family again. But God has placed you and I where we are for a reason. One way my roommate and I have stayed engaged at college is by making a list of goals/activities to give us something to look forward to in the upcoming months. We wrote out goals for the semester, such as people we wanted to talk to and habits we wanted to form. We also made a list of fun activities for the upcoming month, filled with restaurants to try and places to go. Having a “game plan,” renews hope for the future.

Switch up your perspective. As a culture, when we think of missions we often think of going overseas and leaving the comfortable. But God calls us to be a witness right where we are. For me, college is a sacrifice as I’m leaving my family and the familiar. I’ve started viewing college as my mission field. College is the prime time to share Jesus’ love with people. As I think about how college is an opportunity to share Christ, it gives me a sense of purpose in leaving home because suddenly it’s about God and not about me. Wherever you may be, focusing your eyes on Jesus will switch your attitude about the situation.

But you are my witnesses…You’re my handpicked servant. So that you’ll come to know and trust me, understand both that I am and who I am.” (Isaiah 43:10)

And God is the faithful and the consistent. When you’re feeling homesick, hold onto this promise: “I the Lord do not change,” (Malachi 3:6). Lean into Him. He will hold you.

Finding Your Word for 2015 (Guest Post)

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Two weeks into this new semester, and I am already realizing how much I will need to persist. Can I share a secret? I love new opportunities. And I love being involved. I jump on board with something and start running, only to realize that I am already far behind and exhausted (meaning I end up over-committing my time because I get so excited about a new idea or project). Yep, it’s already happening. And I’ve only had 9 days of classes so far! I’m also realizing how much work this semester of classes is going to take. I’ve said it before, but I especially need to figure out how to do the minimum well (and quickly, please!!).

At the same time, I am so excited! Two weeks into the semester and I am thrilled about my friendships, my classes, my professors, and my projects. I thought that I might come back and realize that I didn’t like it here any more. For whatever reason, I seriously had that fear. Yet God is faithful! Two weeks in and I am already laughing until I can’t breathe with friends and going deeper and having new, wonderful experiences. God is good. Yes, there are intense moments of stress and anger and exhaustion. And yes, God is still good even then.

Looking into the next week and all I have to accomplish, I need the reminder to persist. Just in time, Tirzah published a new article of mine. (Hey, that rhymed!)

Finding Your Word for 2015

Reading over it again reminded me of what this semester is all about and helped me to focus my thoughts. I may not be blogging as much over the next few months, but I will be sure to keep you updated on how I’m learning to see God in my everyday life. Thanks for your support along the way!

Now, to get some work done…

— Phebe